US box office 2021 lags 70% behind movie ticket sales in 2019

Two months before the end of the year, the coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten the film industry.

Ticket sales in 2021 have already surpassed 2020’s paltry box office. But sales still lag nearly 70% of the $ 11.4 billion in 2019. Domestic box office grossed $ 2.84 billion in ticket sales as of Sunday, according to Comscore.

The box office grew steadily throughout the year as new films became available on the big screen and viewers were more comfortable getting out of the house. Exclusive theatrical releases such as Disney’s Free Guy, Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Sony’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage have proven that theaters have a future, even if total attendance and ticket sales less than before the pandemic.

These films had a strong first weekend. The Venom sequel, which debuted the first weekend of October, currently holds the record for most openings during the health crisis, with ticket sales of around $ 90 million. What’s more, these titles continued to attract moviegoers for several weeks after their debut.

This pattern suggests that as the threat of the coronavirus disappears and the major blockbusters continue to enter the market, the box office will return to more normal levels.

“To say that the box office has changed would be an understatement at this stage,” said Sean Robbins, chief analyst at

With two weeks of sales still ahead, October box office is the second highest box office month of the year. According to Comscore, theaters already sold $ 415.6 million in the first half of the month, up from $ 583.8 million in ticket sales in July. July saw the release of Black Widow as well as continued ticket sales for F9, which debuted in the last week of June.

“The industry is still working to overcome certain hurdles, such as caution among the elderly and waiting for a vaccine for children, but most of the viewers who visit the films have returned in the past six months in full swing,” Robbins said. He added that this is a promising sign for theaters ahead of the holidays.

“October was a period of renewal for Hollywood that studios and exhibitors have been patiently waiting for,” said Jeff Bock, senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “The outlook for a downside indicates that the industry is heading in the right direction, as evidenced by many strong debuts.”

Before the pandemic, the fall film season, which spans October, November and December, accounted for about 25% of ticket sales each year. In 2019, that three-month period was nearly $ 3 billion.

Box office analysts don’t expect Fall 2021 to match this, but they are confident titles such as Disney’s “Eternals” and “Encanto” Warner Bros. The Resurrection Matrix and Spider-Man: No Way Home from Sony and Marvel will be alluring enough to help the 2021 box office reach around $ 4 billion.

“Recovery has always been a tiered process, and while 2021 appears to be coming to an end, 2022 is well positioned to push the box office even higher,” Robbins said.

But Bock expects the first part of next year to “be tiresome” because there will be several major releases early in the year. Still, summer looks as “strong as ever,” he said, comparing it to the 2019 blockbuster series. The summer roster includes new releases from major franchises like Marvel, DC, Jurassic World, Top Gun, Fantastic Beasts, Minions, and Transformers.

However, audiences were less predictable during the pandemic, and the availability of some blockbusters to be streamed at the same time as cinemas led to the cannibalization of ticket sales.

“One of the most intriguing aspects of resuming theatrical performance during the pandemic was that young audiences were gathering in large numbers and on a consistent basis,” Robbins said. “Before the pandemic, there were various stories of young consumers abandoning so-called traditional habits instead of an endless array of platforms for distributing content via social media and streaming.”

It seems that older generations, many of whom have children who cannot be vaccinated, are now less likely to go out to theaters. However, when vaccines become widely available to people under the age of 11, the situation could change again.

“Films targeting younger audiences thrive, while those targeting more mature moviegoers find it harder to gain traction,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “At least for now.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal distributed “F9” and “Halloween Murders” all over the world and distributed “No Time To Die” all over the world.

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